Doing Remote Sales Reach-outs Using Linkedin in the times of Corona

Does cold calling work?
If you are an entrepreneur or a Sales professional, then you would know that cold calling is the lifeblood of Sales, especially B2B Sales. While cold calling techniques have also gotten fancier over the last few decades, so much so that they are no longer recognisable as ‘cold’ calling, many small businesses today still operate using pristine cold calling techniques. They do relevant lead generation to the extent possible, create a list of contacts who fit their target customer segment, and then call up boardline numbers of organizations in order to speak with these prospects. 
It’s an interesting process, a roller-coaster ride for the sales teams, as they focus on volumes given the funnels are really steep. 
Now all of us here know that this system works and generates decent ROI. By chance if a non-sales person has strolled into this article, then for your benefit, let me explain: yes, if you are reading this and imagining yourself at the receiving end, being harangued day in and day out by banks, insurance professionals, telephone service providers, then you can be forgiven for being skeptical about the efficacy of the process. But we are not talking about B2C sales here. B2B is a different ball game altogether. Imagine yourself as the HR or admin head at a company with ~250 employees, now it is your job to create engagement - inter and intra teams, you may even be carrying it on your work plan. So if you receive calls from event management firms who specialise in corporate team building activities, it is very much part of your day job, and you will pay attention. 
The times they are a-changin’ and the change-agent is COVID-19
But, but, but..
We are in these strange times where the world seems to have gone a bit crazy. Folks are not in office, so pray, what use are boardline numbers? Department heads are rationing their time to squeeze in work, domestic duties and kid management, so where is the time to respond to cold callers even if you do manage to get their mobile phone numbers?
You too may need to do things differently, in fact, you will need to chuck the old completely and re-imagine your funnel with a very different reach-out method. 
LinkedIn and others arrive on the scene as reach-out channels
A core principle of the reach-out technique is to do it via media where your audience is likely to spend time. A second principle is to do it when they are likely to be looking for the kind of solutions you provide. So channel and context both become critical. Cold calling worked well with these principles, your target does spend a better part of their day at office, and they are likely to be receptive to professional solutions that make their lives easier while they are there. But today during these Corona times, cold calling is unlikely to work, so let us look at some other techniques, some of which may actually be better. 
For many of you with corporate or business audiences as your key customer segment, today you won’t find them via boardline numbers, but you may reach out to them in an equally professional setting: via professional networking websites such as LinkedIn*. LinkedIn India today has a user base of 62 million professionals, the second largest user base in the world, with half a million businesses registered, and as that is a great reach-out medium. Yes 62 million is miniscule given India’s population but if you are a business targeting corporates or other startups, chances are your target base does sit within this set; do give this method a try. 
Here below I will highlight some of the steps you can follow while doing LinkedIn reach-outs to make them most effective. 
And even if your target audience is not on LinkedIn, worry not, there are other ways to digitally reach them: could be email, or some other platform like Facebook where they are likely to be present. Each have their pros and cons, but do evaluate them as viable options.
Why a Digital outreach method like LinkedIn works
Like I mentioned earlier, it has relevant audiences on it, and the right context for initiating professional conversations. However it has one massive advantage over cold calling : it allows you to nurture your prospects in a very powerful way. 
Any social media platform runs on content, as does LinkedIn. Being connected to relevant audiences as part of your network allows you to share and create the right content for them to get interested in your company’s offerings. Equally it lets you see when they are looking for solutions such as yours. For example, if you are a talent company, you can come to know when your connections are hiring, and that gives you the opportunity to make a customised pitch to them. At the end of the day, LinkedIn reach-outs are also volume-driven, however the % of closures over reach-outs improves vs cold calling because you are able to nurture and remarket to these same reach-outs over time. 
Here below is how you and your Sales teams can approach LinkedIn reach-outs 
1# Add to your network
A lot of us think of expensive products like Sales Navigator etc when we think LinkedIn reach-outs. But I recommend going the old fashioned (and less expensive) way : make a connection. 
Sending a connection request not only makes that person a part of your network to ‘nurture’ later, but also is a more organic and natural way to get in touch with someone. It is less intrusive, and is a more confident approach 
2# Always always send a personal note
Don’t just send a connection request but add a personal note to it. This note can be standardized, but even so, is a very powerful way for a first contact, who may become a potential client at some point 
3# Timing is key 
Once someone accepts your connection request, remember that you have a very small window of opportunity to impress them with some further information about your company and set up a call / get their contact information. Unfortunately, a pre-corona research says that people on average spend 17 minutes a month on LinkedIn (might have gone up now with Corona), and you want to use the time they do spend on it effectively. So draft a second message, again it can be standardized, but send it as soon as your prospect accepts the connection request. To get notifications as soon as they accept, download the app. 
4# The message is King
You may get everything else right but all will come to naught if you get the message wrong. Write drafts, show it to people and fine-tune it. For the connection request note, you will not be able to say much given the character limit, so make sure you put your strongest points as well as your offerings clearly. Also please customise the salutation manually, do greet the person you are hoping to make a connection with by their first name, it’s some effort but pays big. Nobody wants to respond to indifferent or automated-sounding communication. 
And finally don’t be creepy. Don’t send one line messages asking how they are; always send your information like a note, all at one go with a beginning, body and ending, with context and credibility. But yes, not too long either.
It can be done :)
5# Remarket to this set
For the ones who accept the connection but do not reply on your second message, or reply and say that they are not looking for your product/service at this point, there is a lot of merit in remarketing to them. By the time you remarket, they would have seen some of the content you post and you would have seen some of their interests, so you can build off from there. But so approach it like a work-stream. Playing off their interests or recent posts is a great way to capture their interest and position yourself as someone who has been paying attention, so here a bit more customisation is recommended. Standardise it by mixing the first paragraph of custom messaging with a second paragraph of standard text. 
6# Use LinkedIn friendly tools such as slideshare 
If you want to send a deck, use something like a Slideshare which allows them to open it without having to move out of the platform or downloading a file. You could also link to other LinkedIn posts and content that you or your company page has put out 
Hope these were useful. We at FlexiBees exclusively use LinkedIn to do our sales reach-outs and it has worked so far. Even if you want to mix it up, hope this sparked some thoughts. Hit me up if any specific questions or clarifications, happy to brainstorm!
* Disclaimer: I am not getting paid by LinkedIn for this :)

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